MALT Lymphoma: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis

What is MALT Lymphoma?

MALT lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymph nodes of the body. MALT stands for mucosa associated lymphoid tissue which is a moist tissue that lines some of the organs as well as body cavities like nose, mouth, lungs and the digestive tract. It is important to know the symptoms of MALT lymphoma, its causes and treatment.

MALT lymphoma is triggered in some organs and affects the lymph nodes eventually causing cancer type symptoms. Commonly, this type of cancer develops in the stomach affecting the digestion and appetite of the patient. Other organs where MALT lymphoma can be triggered are lungs, thyroid gland, salivary gland, tear gland and the bowels. A noticeable characteristic feature of MALT lymphoma is the presence of neo-plastic cells which destroy the lymphatic system.

MALT Lymphoma

Causes of MALT Lymphoma

The abnormal production or uncontrolled growth of the white blood cells in the body can cause the cancer cells to develop in MALT lymphoma. The cancer cells grow slowly affecting the lymphatic system, which is a part of the immune system of the body. It is often referred to as multifocal disease and is usually indistinguishable from other infections in the gastro-intestinal tract. The occurrence of MALT lymphoma in the stomach is associated with the infection caused by Helicobacter pylori bacteria which causes chronic gastritis or inflammation in the gastro intestinal tract. Persistent inflammation due to infection or long term autoimmune condition is one of the common causes of MALT lymphoma.

An autoimmune condition called the Sjögren’s syndrome can be one of the causes of MALT lymphoma in the salivary gland. Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease that affects the moisture producing glands like the salivary gland. This can trigger the growth of cancer cells in that area of the body.

The cause of MALT lymphoma affecting the other parts of the body remains unknown. It is believed that certain genetic defects may trigger the cancer causing cells in the body. Infections and autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto thyroiditis and Crohn’s disease may be associated with MALT lymphoma, though there is no clear related identified.

Symptoms of MALT Lymphoma

The symptoms of MALT lymphoma depend on the organ of origin wherein it begins or occurs in the body. It might affect the stomach, lungs and thus show different symptoms as mentioned below;

The Symptoms of Malt Lymphoma of the Stomach May Include the Following:

The Symptoms of Malt Lymphoma of the Lungs May Include the Following:

The Symptoms of Malt Lymphoma of the Salivary Gland May Include the Following:

  • Painful lump in the face
  • Swelling of the face
  • Difficulty in eating, swallowing, drinking
  • Dryness of mouth
  • Foul taste or smell from mouth
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Low blood pressure
  • Frequent infections

The Symptoms of Malt Lymphoma of the Thyroid Gland May Include the Following:

  • Painful lump in throat and neck
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Irritation or dryness in throat is one of the commonest symptoms which is witnessed in individuals suffering from MALT.
  • Dry cough
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Headache
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Infections in throat

The Symptoms of Malt Lymphoma of the Tear Gland May Include the Following:

  • Watery eyes
  • Irritation in eyes
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Frequent eye infections
  • Headache
  • Fever.

These symptoms of MALT lymphoma need proper attention and are studied closely to aid diagnosis of the condition. With proper assessment and timely diagnosis, appropriate medical help can be provided.

Treatment of MALT lymphoma

The treatment of MALT lymphoma begins with the diagnosis of the type of infection and the determination of the organ of origin. Once the type of infection and the organ affected is determined, a course of antibiotics and antacids are given to the patient to reduce the infection and improve the health condition. The duration of the course is based on the severity of the infection and the extent of damage by the cancer cells. A series of tests like endoscopy and biopsy of organs is then performed to plan the further treatment of MALT lymphoma.

Further treatment of MALT lymphoma includes radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery.

While surgery helps with the treatment only to a certain extent, a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy with surgery helps to overcome the cancer to a greater extent.

  • Chemotherapy consists of the use of cancer killing drugs.
  • Radiotherapy is the usage of laser rays to destroy the cancer cells. Radiotherapy is considered to be an effective treatment option where the cancer can be treated to a much greater extent than administration of just chemotherapy.

At times, these treatment options are combined with surgery to get rid of cancer cells when the cells have not affected the surrounding areas in the body.


MALT lymphoma affects the lymphatic system, which is responsible for the immunity, making it weak and prone to infections. The main causes of MALT lymphoma is chronic infections and persistent inflammation in the body. It is a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The common symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, indigestion, tiredness, lumps in the affected organ and surrounding areas, difficulty in breathing, eating and swallowing. The symptoms of MALT lymphoma are specific to the organ of origin.

The diagnosis of the lymphoma is done by a series of tests and scans that determine the extent of the infection spread in the body. The main treatment of MALT lymphoma include radiotherapy, chemotherapy, surgery or a combination, which can give positive results to a great extent. Frequent studies and new researches are being done to find new treatment options and methods, such that patients can be treated well and given better life to live that is healthy and free from life threatening disease.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 4, 2021

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